Bogotá’s reputation as a destination for business and leisure travelers has enjoyed a turnaround in the past five years. Theater, art, fashion and gastronomy are all thriving in the energetic and intense capital city of Colombia, which is home to nearly 8 million residents living more than 2,400 meters (8,000 feet) above sea level.
The city, home to the country’s stock market, is an important economic center. Most Colombian companies have their headquarters in Bogotá, and the majority of foreign companies’ operations are based in the city. Although Colombia is usually associated with coffee production, textiles, oil and gas and mining are also big business. Emeralds mined a few hours from the city are traded on the street in downtown Bogotá.
The country is focused on strengthening its economy (gross domestic product has grown more than 4% a year for the past three years), but its citizens haven’t abandoned their zeal for entertainment. Bogotános even have created a new word for Thursday—juernes, a blend of the Spanish for Thursday and Friday—which describes getting an early start to the weekend.
Getting to and from the airport
El Dorado International Airport (website in Spanish) is approximately 15 kilometers (9 miles) west of the city center. Taxis are available outside the terminal. Go to the kiosk with the address of your destination, and you’ll be handed a computerized print out of the fare, so you know exactly how much you’ll be paying. Expect a fare of around 28,000 Colombian pesos, or Col$, approximately US$14.
Getting around Bogotá
Bogotá’s public transportation system is based on an extensive network of buses. The newest system is called TransMilenio (website in Spanish) and relies on a fleet of 470 high-capacity buses with dedicated express lanes. Fares cost Col$1,500 for a single ticket, including transfer to a local feeder bus service.
Visitors may prefer to use Bogotá’s official yellow taxis, which are metered. They should also display a sticker indicating fare supplements for holidays and nighttime journeys. Official taxis are generally plentiful, cheap, convenient and safe. Ask your hotel to call one for you.
Where to stay
For a luxury stay, try the Radisson Royal Bogotá Hotel, Calle 113 No. 7-65, Bogotá 094861, Ph: +57-1-657-8700 or the Crowne Plaza Tequendama Bogotá, Carrera 10 No. 26-21, Bogotá, Ph: +57-1-382-0300.
High-end options include the JW Marriott Hotel Bogotá, Calle 73 No. 8-60, Bogotá, Ph: +57-1-481-6000 or the Hilton Bogotá, Carrera 7 No. 72-41, Bogotá 00000, Ph: +57-1-600-6100.
For an upscale option, try NH Bogotá 93, Calle 93 No. 12 – 41, Bogotá 1100100, Ph: +57-1-589-7744.
For a mid-scale stay, try Holiday Inn Bogotá Airport, Avenida Calle 26 No. 69D-91, Bogotá, Ph: +57-1-404-4141 or Tryp Bogota Embajada, Avenida Calle 24 No. 51-40, Bogotá 11001, Ph: +57-1-489-3000.
Things to see and do
Nowadays we’re more used to wearing it, but if you’d like to find out how our ancestors used to offer gold to the gods, visit the Museo del Oro (the Gold Museum). It’s open from Tuesday to Sunday and entry costs Col$3,000 apart from Sunday, when entry is free. More than 55,000 pieces of gold are displayed on three floors, so allow a couple of hours for your visit. You can join a free one-hour guided tour (available in English) at 11 a.m. or 4 p.m. from Tuesday to Saturday.
The museum is in the La Candelaria neighborhood, where you’ll find plenty of museums, ancient churches and small shops. At its heart lies the Plaza Bolívar with a bronze statue of Simón Bolívar, the Venezuelan politician and military leader who played a key role in Colombia’s fight for independence from Spain.
If you’re in town on the weekend, spend a couple of hours on Sunday strolling through the flea market just north of the main square in the Usaquén neighborhood (near the intersection of Calle 120/Carrera 5). You’ll find stalls selling handicrafts, jewelry and food.
To get a view of Bogotá from above, take a five-minute trip via the cable or funicular railway to the top of Cerro de Monserrate. At 3,150 meters (10,400 feet), the mountain has been a symbol for religious pilgrims since 1640. A statue of the Señor Caído (Fallen Christ) still attracts thousands of people a year. Return ticket prices range from Col$9,000-17,000 depending on when you go.
Enjoy a breath of fresh air in the city center by visiting the Jardin Botanico Jose Celestino Mutis (website in Spanish), featuring greenhouses, gardens and a collection of 5,000 orchids. It’s open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday to Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends and public holidays. Adult entry costs Col$2,700.
Where to eat
If you’re visiting Monserrate, enjoy the view for a little longer and eat in one of the two restaurants on the summit. Casa Santa Clara offers you the chance to try traditional fish and meat dishes for lunch and sweet treats for afternoon tea. It’s open from Tuesday to Sunday and reservations are recommended, especially for Sunday lunch (Paseo Bolívar estación funicular Cerro de Monserrate, Ph: + 57-1-281 9309).
The other restaurant on the mountain is Casa San Isidro and offers traditional French cuisine. It’s open Monday to Saturday for lunch and dinner, and reservations are recommended. The atmosphere is traditional and refined and diners are sometimes serenaded by a live pianist (Paseo Bolívar estación funicular Cerro de Monserrate, Ph: 57-1-281-9270).
For a light bite for breakfast, lunch or brunch, head to the popular Crepes & Waffles. The chain currently has more than 80 outlets in Bogotá and you can search for your nearest location (website in Spanish).
For seafood and fish, head over to La Fragata (website in Spanish). There are three locations in the city, but visitors may like to visit the revolving restaurant on the 12th floor of the World Trade Center. It’s located at Calle 100 # 8A-55 Piso 12, Ph: +57-1-218 4456.
For a fun night out of the city, head to Andres Carne de Res for steak and more, all detailed on a 64-page menu. It’s best suited for groups, and everyone should be prepared for late-night dancing on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. The restaurant is located about 20 kilometers (about 12 miles) out of town, so either arrange a return taxi beforehand or go along with local companions. You’ll find it at Calle 82 No 12-21, Zona Rosa, Bogotá, Ph: +57-1-863 78 80.
Experience a little bit of Italy at the Di Lucca Italian trattoria. It’s a longstanding favorite with locals and visitors who head there for pizza, pasta and risotto (Carrera 13 No 85-32, Bogotá, Ph: +57-1- 6-115614).
Head to the Bogota Beer Company for locally brewed beer and a fun and a lively atmosphere. There are multiple locations in the city (website in Spanish). You’ll find lager, stout and limited edition beers, as well as a typical pub menu of chicken, buffalo wings and burgers.